The Adirondack Council released its annual State of the Park report Wednesday, highlighting many things it believes elected and appointed officials did well for the park in 2018, and some things it thinks still need addressing.
The report generated mixed reviews from state and local officials as people continue to have differing opinions of how to handle increasing tourism and other stressors in the nearly 6 million acre park.
"This year, as we welcome a record 12.4 million visitors to the Adirondacks, we celebrate the Park as a world-class resource and national treasure," said Adirondack Council Executive Director William Janeway, in a letter at the start of the report. "... All of those visitors will take away fond memories of the Park, and we hope they will make a permanent connection between the beauty of this place and the laws and regulations that protect it. The Adirondack Park is facing serious threats to its wild character, ecological health and communities. We will need the assistance of both state and federal officials to eliminate these threats."
The report highlights initial actions government leaders have taken to alleviate the threats. In the report's "2018 Report Card" five of eight actions were given a thumbs-up, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo's approval to protect the Boreas Ponds from motorized or mechanized recreation, and removal of oil train cars from 22 miles of track between North Creek and Tahawus.
While pleased with the increasing number of tourists to the area, the Adirondack Council highlights the overuse of trails as a major threat to the environment. It believes the state Department of Environmental Conservation needs more staff, especially in the High Peaks area, and points to Cuomo's delay in appointing members to empty seats on the Adirondack Park Agency board.
The DEC said the popularity of the High Peaks is a testament to the region's beauty, and it has increased its outreach and education to the public.
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"Through Governor Cuomo's leadership, New York is making tremendous progress and investments to protect and enhance the irreplaceable Adirondack Park and the local communities it supports," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos, in an emailed statement to The Post-Star. "Every day, DEC's expert staff is working to grow the Forest Preserve, protect water quality, fight invasive species, reduce air pollution, and promote sustainable tourism in the park, which benefits both the environment and our economy."
The report considers some development projects planned for the Adirondacks, including new roads and attraction signs, as problematic for preserving the area's natural beauty. The council also takes issue with motorized recreation, like ATVs.
Frederick Monroe, executive director of the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board, said environmental groups need to consider the "suffering" economies of Adirondack communities.
"As the state of New York has acquired hundreds of thousands of acres of productive forest land and converted those lands to forever wild Forest Preserve, logging, trucking and mill jobs have been lost," he said in an emailed statement. "Mining has also declined. The result has been an increasing focus on tourism to sustain the economy.
"The Review Board views motorized access to the Forest Preserve lands and waters as a critical component of the tourism economy, especially snowmobiling in the winter, which in some cases means the difference between survival or failure of a business."
Monroe said the board did support more staffing for the DEC, increased funding for combating invasive species and "supports solutions that involve better maintenance of trails, management of parking and education efforts to spread the use to little-used areas of the Adirondacks, rather than prohibitions to reduce the number of hikers and paddlers."
The full report rates the actions of local, state and federal government officials and agencies with a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down. To view the full report, visit adirondackcouncil.org.